On the day most Americans celebrated football, dip and chicken wings, Brown University student Nicolas Jaar hosted a “multidisciplinary performance” at the MoMA PS1 in New York City. In addition to a Jaar performance, the event also served as a kick-off for Clown And Sunset Aesthetics, the parent company of Jaar’s nascent label. Although jalapeño poppers and beer may have been absent from the menu, Jaar’s many admirers feasted on Bloody Marys and barbecue—frog legs, calamari and boneless quail, that is.
Jaar’s performance, which took place in the museum’s newly erected geodesic “Performance Dome” tent, lived up to the artsy spirit of the event. To start with, it took place in a tent shaped like a half-circle, where Jaar and his music-making companions conducted sonic wizardry from the center.
Throughout the course of his five-hour performance, Jaar was joined by Will Epstein, who played saxophone and keys, and singer Sasha Spielberg, daughter of the famed filmmaker. Although the length of the performance gave Jaar the opportunity to travel great distances in sound, what was striking was how consistent he can be. From spaced-out stretches of aural abyss to clunky dance beats, Jaar’s style is distinct and unmistakable. It is the product of glitchy, stuttered “eh-ah” vocal samples (like in “Etre”), elastic beats that snap like rubber bands, reflective minor keys picked form the lower end of a piano and bass that pools and puddles. He may be making music primarily with machines, but Jaar is always present inside his work.
Although the event was billed as a multidisciplinary performance, the audio was the highlight. The visuals, which were only projected to one portion of the tent, consisted of shots of a field cross-faded with a live feed of the audience in black and white. Around 4 p.m. choreographer Lizzie Feidelson set up shop on a small stage at the periphery of the tent and got to work accompanying the sound with an elegantly modern style of movement: a graceful sweep of arm and leg, pause. Another graceful sweep of arm and leg, pose with toe pointed and eyes locked on a nearby crowd member, pause. Stretch. Pause.